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01.06.2023 Journalism REPORTER’S DIARY: Looking for Fuel at a Lagos NNPC Station, I Was Robbed — But Without a Gun

Published 1st Jun, 2023

By Sodeeq Atanda

President Bola Tinubu’s statement that “Petrol subsidy is gone” threw the nation into panic on Monday, and since then, citizens have been grappling with new economic realities.

Happenings subsequent to the president’s May 29 inaugural speech have elicited different reactions from Nigerians, many of whom have accused the new government of being insensitive.

Although there seems to be a consensus on the need for the government to do away with subsidy payment to allow Nigerians bear the full weight of purchasing fuel, tongues are divided on how best the new government should approach it.

READ ALSO: REPORTER’S DIARY: The Search for ‘Hidden’ Precious Stones in Ibadan

Yesterday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) came out with a reviewed price template for petrol.

According to the NNPC, which is the sole importer of the commodity, the regime of uniform petrol price is gone and prices would continue to fluctuate depending on market demands.

I left home as early 5:40 am today to experience what Nigerians have been going through in getting petrol.

Interestingly, I saw not only the helplessness of Nigerians but also how an NNPC station in Bariga reserved the product for a particular private logistics company.

The walk-in and exit gates of the filling station were shut, giving the impression that it was not open for business. Meanwhile, it was operating selectively and preferentially.

I nearly turned back seeing the gates closed. On a careful look, I sensed something was going on and felt encouraged to check in.

READ ALSO: REPORTER’S DIARY: Inside a Nigerian Border Community Where ‘Everyone’ Breaks the Law to Live

PETROL RESERVED FOR GIG

Hajji, a chubby, round-faced man who appeared to be in his 50s, showed no bit of compassion to the customers when he said the petrol in their underground store was reserved for a private company.

“We don’t have sufficient petrol again. The available volume we have now is reserved strictly for this company (gesticulating to a GIG Logistics‘s vehicle parked under the station’s metal canopy). I cannot act against my boss’ instruction,” Hajji told customers in desperate need of petrol.

He turned attention to the vehicle and sold some volume of litres into its tank at the official rate of N488 per litre. I joined others, who had lined up their jerrycans, in appealing to Hajji for a consideration as we needed this essential commodity ‘badly’.

A man caught my attention with the way he was passionately begging as if not getting the product would irreparably damage him. My deduction from his face was that he probably needed the product to power his business in order to feed his family.

A car owner persuading Hajji. Photo Credit: Sodeeq Atanda for FIJ
Hajji. Photo Credit: Sodeeq Atanda for FIJ

Ordinarily, his pleadings could soften the devil’s mind, but not an indignant Hajji’s. He was forced to leave at 8:06 am when Hajji turned off the petrol dispenser.

READ ALSO: REPORTER’S DIARY: Mature Mangoes Seek Attention in Osun LGA, But No One ‘Sees’ Them

Although Hajji attended to a few persons, he stopped before getting to my turn and the said man.

Unlike others, I would rather stay around the fuel station to see another GIG bus. I had earlier heard Hajji saying some GIG buses would still come.

PAYING MORE TO GET LESS

With a keen mind, I followed every ounce of happenings at the station. At first, I did not know why some customers were grumbling despite enjoying Hajji’s ‘mercy’ to purchase petrol.

I would later know why. The attendants were cunny and wielded some power the customers lacked the will to question.

Looking at the dispenser screen, I observed that a customer asked Hajji’s fellow attendant to sell N3,500’s worth of petrol to him but the attendant pumped less than N3,300 petrol into his keg. As it happened to the man, it did to others.

Luck smiled on me when two GIG buses tail-gated each other into the fuel station. In short, without the ‘grace’ of GIG Logistics, I would not have been able to get some fuel from the volume reserved for the consignment delivery company.

I told Hajji I wanted N5,000 fuel. He pumped N4,806.8 worth of petrol into my container and collected N5,000 from me. I asked him why, but he could not justify his action. Like others before me, I was robbed without a gun. I got less value than what I paid for.

READ ALSO: REPORTER’S DIARY: I Challenged Lagos Police, ‘My Friends,’ for Punching a Driver, and They Arrested Me

PRIVATE RETAILS STATIONS OUT OF PETROL

I gathered from my trip that many independent marketers either lacked the product or were either hording it.

My checks at Boltund filling station at Bariga showed that there was no selling and buying activities at the station about 9 am today.

Before getting to Boltund, I was at AP fuel station in Gbagada. I spoke with a staffer who said they did not have petrol. Asked if they were expecting a delivery, he said he could not provide a specific response.

Northwest’s price board. Photo Credit: Sodeeq Atanda for FIJ

Meanwhile, Northwest and Etherna fuel stations were selling petrol to only customers who could pay N490 for a litre. Northwest is located near Newcastle, Anthony, and Gbagada areas of Lagos State.

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Published 1st Jun, 2023

By Sodeeq Atanda

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